Game 7: Michigan at Bradley Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan at Bradley - #18
Dustin Johnston

College basketball coaches will tell you that any road win is a good one. John Beilein got just what he wanted out of his team’s 74-66 win at Bradley on Saturday afternoon. The victory was far from perfect as Bradley hung around early and made a big push late, but Michigan prevailed and passed its first true road test. Carver Arena provided an environment hostile enough to give the Wolverines a taste of what lies ahead but safe enough that Michigan could lead from wire-to-wire and move to 7-0, winning its first road game of the season for just the second time under John Beilein’s tutelage.

Nik Stauskas led all scorers with a career high 22 points and was phenomenal in the first start of his young career. While Stuaskas notched big basket after basket, he had plenty of help. Jordan Morgan added a 10 point and 10 rebound double-double while Trey Burke (16) and Glenn Robinson III (13) also reached double figures in the victory.

Michigan dominated the offensive glass on the night, grabbing over half of its first half misses and 40 percent of its misses on the game. Bradley isn’t a great rebounding team but Michigan’s 10 second chance points were the critical difference in the game. It felt like the Wolverines missed a number of attempts around the basket, especially on put-backs, but the shooting numbers are still strong. Michigan made 50% of its twos and a sizzling 47% of its threes for a 56% effective field goal percentage.

The Wolverines were uncharacteristically sloppy with the basketball, coughing it up on one out of every five offensive possessions. Hardaway (5 turnovers) was the primary culprit but there was blame to spread around as Burke, Robinson and Morgan all turned the ball over twice. Bradley is one of the best in the country at forcing turnovers, especially via the steal (Bradley had 10 steals on the game), but the Wolverines will have to improve in that regard.

This game, perhaps as much as any this season, proved that this Michigan team is capable of winning games in a multitude of different fashions. This team isn’t only a stereotypical perimeter oriented team and there’s more than one combination to unlock victory. Just 28 percent of Michigan’s field goal attempts came from three point range and the Wolverines actually attempted more free throws (21) than threes (15). Michigan was out-shot by Bradley but prevailed because of its ability to dominate the glass and get to the free throw line, something that we simply haven’t seen since John Beilein arrived in Ann Arbor.

For the second consecutive game, Michigan’s interior defense struggled. Bradley shot the ball well inside (59%) and outside (38%) whether it was Walt Lemon Jr. (7-of-11 fg, 1-1 3pt) slashing to the bucket, Jordan Prosser (5-8 fg) finishing on the block, or pretty much anyone else (six of Bradley’s primary seven players scored 9 points or more). The Braves offense was good, scoring 1.03 points per trip, but turnovers served as a debilitating equalizer. Bradley turned the ball over on 22% of its offensive possessions (many unforced) and wasn’t able to make up the empty possessions on the offensive glass (23% offensive rebounding rate) or at the free throw line (24% FTA/FGA).  Bradley’s offensive struggles led to some easy buckets for Michigan’s offense as the Wolverines scored 13 points off of 15 Brave turnovers.

John Beilein made some strong adjustments out of the half time break which seemed to help Michigan open up the game after a tenuous first half. First, Michigan guards began to find the rolling man (Morgan) in the screen-and-roll game which yielded some early offense. Beilein also tried everything in his power to get Tim Hardaway Jr. involved and while the Michigan junior wasn’t perfect he scored a quiet nine points in the second half. Beilein also deserves kudos for a strong sequence off of a late timeout with Michigan up nine points with seven minutes to play. Michigan ran three crisp offensive sets and rattled off a 6-0 run that stretched the lead just far enough to feel comfortable.

But for the second consecutive game, Michigan failed to close out the game late with a big lead. A comedy of Michigan errors – poor decision making, turnovers against ball pressure, uninspiring stall offense, not knowing the shot clock out of a timeout situation – led to a late 11-0 run by Bradley which cut a comfortable 16 point lead to just five points with under a minute to play. Michigan is lucky to have escaped NC State and Bradley but without correction these problems will rear their head and cost the Wolverines a game down the line.

With so many road nightmares in recent history (Virginia, Utah and Iowa come to mind first), any road win is a good win. Michigan was far from perfect but still controlled 38 minutes of play against a scrappy and improved Bradley team. The Wolverines will have to play better on the road in the Big Ten but for six of the nine Michigan players on the floor today this was their first collegiate experience in a hostile venue. John Beilein will certainly pocket the road victory and move on.

Michigan at Bradley - #27
Dustin Johnston

Player Bullets:

  • Nik Stauskas: Stauskas earned his first career start and didn’t disappoint. He didn’t just hit shots, he hit big shots. Every time Bradley seemed to cut the lead, Stauskas would answer with a big play. He’s now 18-of-29 (62%) from three point range this season and is automatic when left open beyond the arc. It took him a while to adjust to Bradley’s ball pressure (1-5 fg to start, 7-10 to finish) but he’s a complete offensive player. The one freshman mistake he needs to eliminate is leaving his feet to pass as he found himself in trouble a couple times doing just that.
  • Trey Burke: Burke did a better job of finding the roll man in the second half, but the trust to throw that pass still isn’t quite there. The distance difference in his average three point make versus miss on the season is easily two feet. We’ve seen Burke hit long threes but he’s making a number of shots more difficult than they have to be. Those negatives aside, Burke still brings so much to the table, scoring 16 points, handing out five assists and even grabbing three defensive boards on the night. His and-one finish in transition was simply a thing of beauty.
  • Glenn Robinson III: Robinson showed no nerves in his first road game, scoring eight of Michigan’s first 10 points. He finished with 13 points on 4-of-6 (1-2 3pt) shooting with four rebounds (3 off.) and two assists. He only played 12 minutes in the second half due to fouls but was quietly effective. Robinson provides a bit of everything and is just someone you need on the floor and his foul trouble served as a reminder that he’s one of the most indispensable pieces in the Wolverine lineup.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan had a solid 10 point-10 rebound double-double in 25 minutes of action. He still needs to be more assertive catching the ball on the block – he always wants to finish over his left shoulder and still waits for the defender when a quick drop step to the right would yield an easy layup – but he was very active on the night. He kept plays alive with hustle (diving on the ground for open court loose balls) and offensive rebounds (4) and improved his second half finishing.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway struggled to adjust to Bradley’s high-pressure defense, finishing with more turnovers (5) than made field goals (4). To his credit, this wasn’t a poor Hardaway game of last year where he continuously jacked up threes, he mostly played within himself offensively – he just wasn’t as effective slashing as he’s been early in the season. He was ripped several times during the lane and missed a number of mid-range jumpers where he’s been so consistent this season. To his credit he took a late charge to slow Bradley’s comeback and scored nine points in the second half on 4-of-7 (1-1 3pt) shooting.
  • Caris LeVert: LeVert appears to have passed Matt Vogrich on the depth chart and that’s enough to burn his redshirt. LeVert played seven minutes and looked a bit skittish in the first half but was calmer in the second. He grabbed a solid rebound in the second half and also handed out a great assist on a pick-and-roll pass to Jordan Morgan.
  • Mitch McGary: McGary continues to tip toe the fine line between playing hard and playing smart. He’s trying to play bigger and stronger but still picks up his fair share of fouls just from being overaggressive and so large. McGary was whistled for four fouls in 14 minutes but did grab five rebounds (3 off.) in that time and notched a put back.
  • Max Bielfeldt: Bielfeldt got some run in his hometown – something that Beilein said was intentional – and played fairly well. He’s active on the glass, had a nice finish off of a pick-and-roll after the defender flopped out of his way. While playing the four he attempted a three without hesitation but missed, he took a charge and should have had a put-back but was fouled and missed both free throws. Bielfeldt plays like a big man, even if he’s a bit smaller, but he’s versatile enough that a “two big” lineup with him at the four has just a bit more potential.
  • Spike Albrecht: If Albrecht can step in the game, not turn the ball over and hand out two assists in six minutes every game then Michigan will be just fine. John Beilein isn’t asking for any more that quick 3-minute bursts of steady play.
  • Matt Vogrich and Eso Akunne: Vogrich didn’t check in until there were less than four minutes to play and Akunne didn’t play. LeVert’s redshirt being removed means it’s clear that the coaches plan to give him every opportunity to make an impact in the position where Vogrich and Akunne have been unable to.
  • Maceo

    Any reason horford didn’t play?

    • Daniel My Brother

      Coach B said in his post game presser that horford intentionally and willingly did not play in order to have bielfeldt play in front of his hometown

      • Yep. Wanted to get Max some run in his hometown.

        • gpsimms

          It seems like that can only be partially true. It is an awful nice D-I coach who puts in a less good player with a game on the line, just for his family/friends.

          I think it probably had more to do with Horford logging (I think) a seven trillion in his last outing. The kid (Max) earned a shot at passing Horford is my guess, and they told Jon the easy way. If Max had played badly, then he just doesn’t play again and Horford is none the wiser. I think he played well enough he might cut into Horford’s minutes a bit.

          • rlcBlue

            I think it’s definitely a combination of purposes. They did want to get Bielfeldt some time on the court in front of his 52 homies, but they also wanted to see how effective Max can be playing the 4. I think it’s pretty clear that having Horford or Morgan spotting up on the three point line won’t help the offense, and while it hasn’t yet been disproven that McGary could play the 4, he’s mighty effective down low and he can’t stay on the court long enough to be a reliable backup.

            So there are two possibilities for what to do when GRIII comes out of the game: 1) go to a two-post offense, or 2) put in somebody else who can play the 4. For the rest of the non-conference season they’ll be figuring out what variations on 1 and 2 will work.

  • CarlBleich

    Hard to believe Matt Vogrich has fallen so far. With the amount of transferring that we see in college basketball today I don’t really think LeVert losing his redshirt is a huge deal.

  • UMfan15

    I kinda liked the McGary-Beilfeldt combo

  • blucinic

    The torch has passed, as regards Vogrich sitting, Stauskas starting, and Caris LeVert subbing. It is bittersweet to see Vogrich sit, but I’m sure he saw the writing on the wall. Sadly, he is now almost a liability, and will probably mostly be relegated to the scout team for the balance of his tenure at Michigan.

  • Chazer

    LeVert must be the best option or JB would not have burned the red…..lets see how he does over the next month. He sounds like a quick 6-5 guard which might create problems for others……pretty good frsh class if Caris contributes. Go Blue!

    • CDeSana

      It sounds like it is more about defense than anything else.

  • Paul

    We have the best overall Freshmen class in the country imho! Move over Kentucky!

  • Paul

    If Caris is good enough (and if better than who he’s replacing) and will get min’s this year to help us get some wins then by all means let him play, and don’t worry about the red shirt!

  • gpsimms

    I loved Stauskas from his first high school videos, and am so glad to see him playing this way. It doesn’t even feel like he’s hot right now, it feels like he just makes these shots and always will.

    Of course, I am sure he has to come to Earth a bit, or maybe after B10 coaches have a full pre-conference set of film on him, they’ll figure some ways to slow him down, but right now he is just a hands-down outstanding offensive basketball player. He’s not that athletic, and it’s a great testament to his work ethic that he is so skilled.

    Lastly, everyone here probably knows I hated moving Timmy to the 2…I just recently came around because he has really elevated his game. Buuut his handle still is just straight up bad, and I think we can expect a few games like this out of him this year. Athletic/quick hands type pressure defenses are always going to be his achilles heel. Before the season I thought we’d experiment with Stauskas at the 2 a bit because I like his handle, but every time I see Nik run (Have you all noticed how slow he is??) I am reminded why he can’t be a 2. Maybe after a year of S&C he can play some guard, but not yet.

    • CDeSana

      I do not think it is Timmy”s handle that needs as much work as it is his recognition of the defense he is facing. He does fine (in my opinion) when he is going one on one with his defender but against a zone where the defender gets help in the paint more quickly he simply has to pull up quicker or kick it back out.

      I love how he so easily finds the soft spot against the 2 – 3 zone as he looks so good hitting that free throw line jumper. And the more he does that he will be able to dump it down to a big for a dunk.

      • ChathaM

        I think Hardaway’s largest weakness is his passing ability. He’s able to see the open man more often than not, but for whatever reason, he is a very weak passer.

        • gpsimms

          I think his passing has improved way more than his dribbling, just my e-pinion.

          • CDeSana

            I agree his passing has improved more than his handle but that said he and Burke both are still adjusting to having more options for scoring (GRIII and Stauskas)

          • jsimms

            hey, gp, the standard phrase is, i think, “just my e-pinion, no sugar coat”.

      • gpsimms

        He does get ripped most in traffic after bad decisions, but he also gets ripped 30 feet away from the basket or in transition sometimes, too. He’s just not that strong with the ball/hands aren’t that quick in my opinion.

  • MGoTweeter

    Great to get a win on the road. That is the most important take away from this game. There was not a whole lot of bad things that came out of it either. Bradley made some plays and tried their hearts out, so hats off to them.

    The offense struggled once again with ball pressure, but I think they showed positive signs of figuring it out. They went to the wings for ball screens which helped to alleviate a lot of the pressure and take some of reliance on Burke away. We have seen Beilein’s offense struggle against that tight pressure in the past, most notably Purdue and to a lesser extent MSU. I still think they need to work the ball into the post more and get an inside-outside game going to take away some of that overplay on the perimeter.

    Hardaway is still not at the point where he can be a great pressure release in a one on one situation but I thought he played a good game. The turnovers obviously were not good but as Dylan pointed out at least he was not just settling for bad threes. He made a number of plays to get into the lane and got good looks, but just missed. It happens. He easily could have had a twenty point game and most would just overlook the turnovers.

    The delay game is the biggest concern especially considering they struggled with it against NC State. I like the mindset to use the clock to your advantage but you still have to realize that there are good shots available and it is ok to take them with under 15 on clock. Nik passed up a wide open three with ten on the clock and opted to drive into the lane for a tough shot which resulted in a transition opportunity the other way. A lot of the turnovers are due to guys reluctance to probe a little bit when they know the coaches want them to use clock. But you have to realize that just keeping the ball out top makes it that much easier for the opponent to pressure and overplay.

    It will be interesting to see what happens with the minutes going forward. It is probably safe to assume that Nik is the starter the rest of the way at the 3 and is getting the majority of the minutes even if he is off. LeVert did not do a whole lot to stand out in this game but he did make one great pass to Morgan and did not appear to have problems on defense. I am guessing he gets most of the minutes as the backup 2. Spike and Burke already have the 1 minutes locked down. Bielfeldt showed me a lot today. That kid needs to keep getting opportunities. But I still like Horford’s potential as well. My guess is that those two are in some sort of time share for the random minutes in the post (4,5). GRIII should continue to get most the minutes at the 4 but the interesting twist comes in should he also get the backup 3 minutes? I don’t think Vogrich is a liability out there as he still plays solid defense, gives you hustle plays and the occasional three but the team may be better using a big lineup from time to time with GRIII at the 3 and Max at the 4 (I have not been impressed with Morgan at the 4 when they have tried it this year). If Max is as good a shooter as the coaches claim, that seems like the best option.

    All that said in terms of minutes, these are good problems to have. Think back four years ago and the team would have killed to have a quality option like Vogrich or Horford to come in. Not to mention in all of this, McLimans has played pretty well in his limited minutes this year and there is always Eso. I cannot remember a time when Michigan had this kind of depth.

    • ChathaM

      That delay game is a tricky thing. Yesterday, when they stated to use clock, I felt that the lead was large enough that the math simply wouldn’t allow for a Bradley comeback. The lead did get to 5, but I don’t think Bradley ever had the ball, down 5. So, really, although it wasn’t comfortable, the math worked out as planned. I felt it was different against NCS, as M started to use clock far too early in the game, and that’s what allowed NCS to create a realistic chance to win.

  • ChathaM

    Bradley looks a bit better than the Bradley I saw last year at Crisler. I still don’t think they’re particularly good. Their looseness with the ball will likely plague them all season.

    We’re all at the point where anytime Stauskas shoots, we expect a make. When he eventually has a bad shooting night, our collective jaw dropping may cause a tremor. As pure a shooter as Stauskas is, I really appreciate his ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket. He reads the defence extremely well (especially for a freshman) when catching the ball at the 3-point line. He showed a very nice hesitation dribble on one second half drive. I’m wondering why he wasn’t more highly ranked as a recruit. I’m sure he showed these same abilities in high school. Were his touches limited?

    I don’t think Paul’s comment is out of line. This may be the nation’s best freshman class.

    Bielfeldt was very good. He played with a lot of strength, and he didn’t look out of place out there. I didn’t expect him to look good after not playing much thus far. If you have enough post depth to play a guy significant minutes just because the game is in his hometown, that’s pretty nice. Weird, but nice.

    Robinson is so quietly efficient, you’d think he was a senior.

    I wouldn’t say that the defence was soft overall. But, it seemed like there were stretches when it was very soft, sandwiched by stretches where the guys seemed to lock down and defend with maximum effort. I suppose that’s what you’d expect from a young team early in a season. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating to watch.

  • CDeSana

    A win is a win but this team is just simply way better when the ball is moving thru more hands on each possession. We are at our worst when Burke dribbles the air out of the ball and throws up a desperation 3. I would like them to explore a little more of a high low post getting the ball to the free throw line area more as both GRIII and Timmy seem to make a lot of good decisions with the ball in that location. Hit the jumper – dump down to a big – or kick it back out to Stauskas or Burke for an open 3 ball.

  • JimmyZ5

    I really like the idea of having a “should win” as our first road game each season. Road games are always a challenge and playing a team that probably shouldn’t beat you gives you a little room for error before conference play or high-major games where anything less than the A-game means a likely loss. Credit to Bradley, they made us earn it.

    What’s the deal with Horford? Doesn’t seem visibly injured. And on the plus side, he’s among the most engaged players on the bench so he doesn’t look disgruntled either. I’m really rooting for him to have a good season/career.

    EDIT: Wow, I just read below that he wanted to let Max get run in his hometown. That’s a very good teammate — but I hope our big man rotation doesn’t get too watered down. Horford needs minutes to get comfortable.